September 1, 2011

Fright Night (1985)

"When a teenager learns that his next door neighbour is a vampire, no one will believe him."

Since I'm never going to watch the appalling remake which is currently receiving bad reviews all over the place, I thought I might as well say something about the original "Fright Night".

The thing is, I don't really like this film all that much either. If you stop to think about it for a second, "Fright Night" is only a more comedic teenage version of "Salem's Lot" (1979) in many ways while really overworking the "Cassandra Truth" trope from "Rear Window" (1954) and its clones. Just imagine David Soul instead of William Ragsdale, Bonnie Bedelia instead of Amanda Bearse, and James Mason instead of Jonathan Stark, and you'll see exactly what I mean.

I've mentioned it before on here but what I really hate about "Fright Night" is the Charlie Brewster character. The guy is a total ass on every level and how the hell anyone would believe that he could have the gorgeous Amy as a girlfriend defies all logic. Of course, with hindsight, we all know that Amanda Bearse's real life sexual preferences make the whole situation even more ludicrous but the way that Charlie treats her character is just shameful.

Something I find astounding is the amount of fanboy adoration that "Fright Night" still gets on various internet sites and forums. It's a well made film as far as production values go but Chris Sarandon is largely wasted in his role especially as Jonathan Stark (doing his best Bill Paxton impersonation before anyone even knew who Bill Paxton even was) totally steals the show out from under him.

And then there's Roddy McDowell. Poor, sweet Roddy, having to ham it up as a horror show host whose first reaction to Charlie Brewster should have been where the film ended for him. I can't fault his performance too much as he's the saving grace in the whole horrid fiasco as much as David Tennant has, allegedly, been the only redeeming feature in the soulless remake.

One thing which irritates me beyond belief is Stephen Geoffreys as Evil Ed and, in particular, his voice. Every nerd and horror geek in the universe repeats his line, "You're so cool, Brewster!" as soon as they hear his name but what does he actually do in the film apart from act in a totally affected manner and then get turned into a vampire? I've actually seen Stephen Geoffreys in the low-budget nastiness that is "Sick Girl" (2007) in case anyone ever wondered what happened to him after his stint in the porn industry under the name of "Sam Ritter". His acting hadn't improved all that much but at least his voice broke.

The funny thing is that even though I would love to throw "Fright Night" completely out of the Video Vault, I can't. It's one of those far too successful '80s comedy-horrors which everyone has a soft spot for even though it's not really all that good either as a horror or a comedy. It's almost as overrated as "The Lost Boys".

"Fright Night" is an iconic (almost "cult") film which I rank alongside "The Breakfast Club" (1985), "Footloose" (1984), "Pretty in Pink" (1986), "Weird Science" (1985) and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986). There were more teen movies during the '80s than any other decade, and, since I was one myself back then, I didn't even notice the excesses or superficialities of any of them. In 1985, I loved "Fright Night" just as much as anyone else.

With my rose-tinted glasses firmly back on, "Fright Night" is staying in the Video Vault purely out of nostalgia. Objectively, the movie sucks (no pun intended) but not as much as the remake.

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